Does anybody remember the 1993 movie "Dave"? It was a nice little movie starring Kevin Kline about a philandering President who has a stroke and goes into a coma while he is "in flagrante delicato" with a mistress. (Gee, I wonder who the model was for that character.)
Dave runs a small Washington D.C. employment agency where he helps those who need a job, sometimes even giving them money from his own pocket to help them get by. He bears a striking resemblance to the comatose President, and he is enlisted to "fill-in" for the President at the behest of a deviously evil White House Chief of Staff and Press Secretary.
Dave begins to take the job seriously, and when he tries to fund a homeless program that the Chief of Staff wants cut, he decides to call his nerdy accountant Murray, played by Charles Grodin, to come to the White House and help him look for savings in the Federal Budget so he can restore the funding.
The following is an exchange is between Dave and Murray. After the script excerpt I will tell you what this all has to do with the current mess in Washington and closer to home in Sacramento.
I gotta tell ya, Dave. I’ve been going over this a bunch of times and a lot of this stuff just doesn’t add up. Who does these books?
I’m not sure.
I just think they make this stuff alot more complicated than it has to be.
I’m not surprised. Can we save anywhere?
Well, yeah. But you gotta start making some choices.
You know — priorities. Remember when you couldn’t get your car fixed `cause you wanted to get that piano?
You could buy it on payments.
Yeah. That’s how you end up with a 400 billion dollar deficit.
So what do we do?
What does this have to do with the Big Federal Bailout Extravaganza and California Budget Meltdown of 2008-9? Behind all the rhetoric and posturing we have heard over the last month, "so what do we do?" sounds like the question that President Bush, Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, The United States Congress, Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature are faced with but cannot answer.
We were told back in September that Congress needed to approve a bailout of $700 billion immediately or the nation’s financial system would collapse. After the first vote failed, Congress did what it does best. It trimmed this Christmas tree of a bill with goodies for many different constituencies to get the necessary votes and it passed. What some of these goodies had to do with the dire situation we were facing are still unclear to me.
But it is always "Christmas" for some whenever Congress is in session.
Now we have the spectacle of the Big 3 automakers coming to Washington via private jet, to beg Congress to save them from themselves. "Quick stop us before we screw up again!" they say. And their partners in this supplication are the United Auto Workers union who are co-equals in creating this mess. Unsustainable pensions and healthcare for retirees as well as their job "re-training" efforts that are nothing more than paying people not to work, are making the price of their cars more expensive. Just read this excellent article by Mitt Romney.
And if you want to find out what might happen with what amounts to nothing more than a nationalization of the automobile industry, just Google "British Leyland and failure" and you will see. Our cousins across the pond propped up the company for years with taxpayer dollars. It was a huge failure and eventually its pieces were sold off to others.
And here at home in California what do we see?
The three blind mice, the Governor, the Assembly and the State Senate are facing an $11.2 billion hole in the budget for THIS fiscal year. And they have absolutely no idea of what the hole is for next year. Most of what we hear from government officials on the amount of next fiscal year’s budget shortfall is simply WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses).
And where are our esteemed leaders?
On foreign junkets at the expense of special interests! Just read this from yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle.
More than a dozen state lawmakers have missed much of the special legislative session called to tackle the state’s fiscal mess, instead traveling to India, China and Hawaii to learn about education, high-speed rail and dams.
The legislators include Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and several Assembly Budget Committee members who missed a hearing on the crisis on Friday. At least two of the lawmakers are not expected to return by Sunday’s planned floor sessions of the Senate and the Assembly, their staff members said.
Obviously, they’re not taking the problem (the state’s budget mess) as seriously as the rest of us," said Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University. "It’s an acute financial situation for the state. I wouldn’t be out of the country when I’m supposed to be solving this problem."
Read the whole story here.
The only solution I have heard from our leaders in Sacramento is higher taxes and getting in line behind Ford, Chrysler, GM, numerous municipalities and other states to ask Washington for a bailout. Why should taxpayers in other states pay to bail out California? And why should California taxpayers pay to bail out other states or the automobile companies?
With all these folks begging at the table of Congress with their empty bowls, I better get in line before the soup’s all gone.
But at the end of the day we are still faced with the same question that Dave asked Murray, "So what do we do?"
If you are waiting for answers from Washington or Sacramento, you will be waiting a long time.